by Shane Saroya – EM TV Sport, Port Moresby
The Panthers development side captained by NRL star, Jamie Saward, took on the PNGSP Hunters in a much anticipated trial match in front of a newly built and full to capacity, National Football Stadium.
The visitors prove unstoppable for the home side with a comfortable 20 points to 12 win.
Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, officially kicked off the match and it was on.
The visitors wasted no time, with bursting runs from the forwards creating space that enabled Leilani Letu to cross the line for the Panthers first try.
Jamie Saward added the extras.
The physical confrontationl from both teams, gave the spectators much to cheer throughout the night.
Albert Wellington for the Panthers outfit proved menacing in defence for the visitors.
The Hunters kept the pressure on but couldn’t handle the ball well. Ishamel Baikawa intercepted but with a break down the line he was taken out 20 metres short of the try line.
Jamie Saward was the crowd favourite and whenever he got too close to the side-line he was swarmed by fans.
Hunters in a desperate search to level the score board saw Wartovo Puara controlling the ruck with quick offloads, allowing the forwards to gain metres before Adex Wera bulldozing his way over the try line. Ase Boas just couldn’t add the extras.
The scores were 4 to 6, just seconds to half time.
Jamie Saward showed his class with his trade mark skip and dummy to drag Hunters defenders out before setting up Josh Hall to score a late try to extend their lead to 12 points leaving Hunters trailing by 4.
The Hunters came out strong in the second half with 2 minutes of play and Philemon Kimiseve scored to bring the scores up to 8. Ase Boas again couldn’t convert the extras.
The match continued with the score at 16 to 8 in favour of the Panthers. The visitors capitalise on the repeated mistakes from the Hunters, to gain meters and a cut out pass by Andrew Heffernan set flanker Josh Hall to score.
The final minutes of the game saw the Panthers counter on Hunters drop balls, making it count with Maliko scoring his second of the night to bring the score up 20.
Hunters however replied with a late try but it was too little too late, the Penrith Panthers defeated SP Hunters by 20 to 12.